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Vertebral Compression Fracture

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vertebral fracture

Vertebral body fractures happen commonly, with aging as one of the major risk factors. The region of the back most often affected in the thoracic spine. It happens more frequent in post menopausal females. Vertebral Compression Fracture occurs when the vertebra is not longer strong enough to properly support a person’s upper body weight, it will often become fractured and eventually collapse.

The most common preexisting condition seen in patients who suffer from vertebral body fractures is osteoporosis, a condition that affects bone density, especially in post menopausal women.  Metastatic cancer that spreads to the vertebrae, especially in the lytic lesions, causes weakening and can be a contributing factor to vertebral body fractures. Any cancer patient who experiences a sudden onset of back pain or neurological changes in the lower extremities should seek immediate medical attention and be tested for metastatic disease. Trauma can also be the cause of vertebral body fractures.

Vertebral body fractures are so common, especially in older patients, those suffering from acute pain, should be evaluated for vertebral body fractures. Before a physician makes a diagnosis, he will first administer a physical exam, focusing on tender spots on the spine and may order radiological imaging. Usually an X-ray is sufficient when checking for fractures in bone, but an MRI or CT scan will also provide the physician with further diagnostic information.

There are several ways to treat vertebral body fractures. The pharmacological treatment usually utilizes NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen) and analgesics (aspirin, Tylenol) to treat acute pain. They may provide temporary relief, however  they do nothing to solve the underlying problem  Bed rest can also be helpful in reducing pain, but too much bed rest will only exasperate the problem. Both vertebroplasty, injecting acrylic cement into a fractured vertebra, and kyphoplasty, which is similar to vertebroplasty but involves a small balloon being inflated in the collapsed vertebra before filling it with acrylic cement, have shown to be extremely helpful in reducing pain and increasing mobility in patients with vertebral body fractures.

Treating osteoporosis before a fracture takes place has shown to be effective in avoiding fractures all together. Some treatments for osteoporosis include hormone replacement therapy, vitamin and mineral supplements, bisphosphonates, calcitonin, and selective estrogen receptor modulators

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